Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday requested that the Justice Department investigate Twitter for violating sanctions on Iran.
The Texas Republican wrote to Attorney General William P. Barr and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin to investigate Twitter’s providing accounts and services to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif.
Mr. Cruz wrote that Twitter has told him that the company’s corporate values require it to provide a platform for the Iranian accounts.
“The position cannot be aligned with Iranian policy as it actually exists or with how designated Iranian officials use Twitter. Iranian officials ban Iranian citizens from accessing Twitter,” Mr. Cruz wrote. “In early April, Khamenei and Zarif used their Twitter accounts to post anti-American disinformation and conspiracy theories, not authoritative health information. They use their accounts provided by Twitter to threaten and taunt their enemies real and imagined.”
Mr. Cruz previously corresponded with Twitter in February to learn its approach to sanctions issues, and Twitter replied in April to Mr. Cruz and three of his GOP colleagues, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Marco Rubio of Florida. Twitter told the senators that the public conversation on the platform was critically important during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We consider official government voices on Twitter an important element of the service,” Twitter’s legal, public policy & trust and safety lead, Vijaya Gadde, wrote to the GOP senators. “The power of a uniquely open service during a public health emergency is clear. The speed and borderless nature of Twitter presents an extraordinary opportunity to get the word out and ensure people have access to the latest information from expert sources around the world.”
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Mr. Cruz’s Friday letter said he thinks Twitter has blatantly and willfully violated the International Emergency and Economic Powers Act and sanctionable activities outlined in Executive Order 13876.
“The cohesion and legitimacy of our laws rest on their equal application to all citizens and entities, no matter how large or how powerful,” Mr. Cruz wrote. “The Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice should investigate what appears to be Twitter’s blatant and willful violation of IEEPA and E.O. 13876 by providing services to Khamenei, Zarif, and other designated Iranian entities, and, to the extent appropriate, enforce any violation through sanctions and by seeking civil and criminal penalties.”
The request for a federal investigation of Twitter comes as the social media platform’s confrontation with President Trump reached new heights on Friday. After Twitter tagged a pair of Mr. Trump’s tweets with labels regarding misinformation, Mr. Trump issued an executive order aimed at removing liability protections for social media companies that behave in a manner similar to Twitter.
On Friday, Twitter placed another warning on a tweet from Mr. Trump, saying the tweet about rioting in Minneapolis violated Twitter’s rules against “glorifying violence.”